27 August 2008

Israel: Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are going digital after more than 2,000 years. The process will help to preserve the scrolls and reveal previously hidden text. Read all about it here. There are photographs and a related video.

Over the next two years, the Israel Antiquities Authority will digitally photograph and scan the scrolls' parchment and papyrus - all the crumbling bits and pieces - and eventually post them on the Internet for everyone to see.

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- More than 2,000 years after they were written, the Dead Sea Scrolls are going digital as part of an effort to better preserve the ancient texts and let more people see them than ever before.

A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, left, as seen by a high-resolution single-wavelength infrared imager, right.

The high-tech initiative, announced Wednesday, will also reveal text that was not visible to the naked eye.

The images eventually will be posted on the Internet for anyone to see.

The first set of scrolls was discovered in 1947; eventually some 11 caves produced scrolls, some more than 2,000 years old.

The fragments were photographed once in the 1950s and, according to the article, some of those images have also disintegrated.

Over the years, only a few scholars have been able to examine the scrolls. Now, however, an international team of technical wizards will work on the imaging project, using the latest technologies at the highest resolution.

"Just by applying the latest infrared technologies and shooting at very high detail, lots of resolution, we are already opening up new characters from the scrolls that are either extremely indistinct or you just couldn't see them before," said Simon Tanner, director of King's Digital Consultancy Services.

Tanner, who has worked on previous digital projects involving antiquities, is on a team that also includes Greg Bearman, who recently retired as principal scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Bearman pioneered archaeological digital imaging and owns a company, Snapshot Spectra, that makes the imagers.

"To switch over to digital is really the way to go, and people were resistant to it initially, because it was a new way of doing stuff," he said. "They want their light table and their magnifying glass."

But with digital imaging, Bearman said, "You can see where the ink has broken away and you can see the texture of the animal skin, so you can see more detail than you can see with the naked eye."

Read the complete article at the link above.

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